Best Whole Foods for Dogs with Allergies

itchy dog
itchy dog

Allergies have become an increasingly common problem among dogs, especially in breeds that are more allergy-prone, like Bernese Mountain Dogs. Your dog’s diet could be the problem or the solution. 

Commercial dog food diets can exacerbate allergies. The process of manufacturing kibble requires food to be superheated to such high temperatures that the natural flora, enzyme, phytonutrient, vitamin and mineral content is destroyed. That is why you see that long list of synthetic vitamins and minerals on the ingredients list of your favorite bag of kibble — they have to be added back for “balance.” 

But synthetic vitamins are not as effective as vitamins in their natural form, and there is a lot more that is lost in the kibble extrusion process than just vitamins and minerals.  All the nutritional components that are in whole foods are essential for preventing immune-related dysfunctions like allergies.

At a glance

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Sometimes people overlook allergies, believing that scratching is normal behavior. Dogs typically don’t get runny noses or watery eyes — instead they get itchy skin. This usually manifests in hot spots, paw licking, fur biting, rubbing the face and ears, or even digestive upset or infections. Allergies are often difficult to diagnose and manage, as it can be complicated to determine their cause, and conventional medications are not healthy. 

Veterinarians usually prescribe antihistamines, hydrocortisone, cortisone or a combination of medications to dogs with allergies. Unfortunately, these drugs only treat the symptoms and not the source of the allergy – a poorly functioning immune system (and gut). Cortisone works by shutting down the immune response, so it is not a long term solution.

The sustainable way to reduce or prevent your dog’s allergies is by feeding them foods that benefit their immune system. Allergy symptoms develop when the immune system attacks itself because it perceives something (food, bacteria, air particles, etc) as dangerous to the body. The immune system activates an inflammatory response in an effort to rid the body of that foreign substance (that may or may not be harmful).

If you’ve ever had an injury, you know what inflammation is — it is the body imposing temporary discomfort for long term health. Inflammation is one of the most important mechanisms the body has to protect itself, but inflammation can also be harmful. An effective immune system will regulate the inflammatory response to be at that “goldilocks” level — not too much and not too little, but just right. 

Research shows that a number of nutrients are associated with an enhanced immune response:

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is just as important for the immune system of our furry family members as it is for ours. In fact, most foods that are good for you are also good for your dog for the same reasons.  When dogs are old, sick, or stressed, their need for vitamin C can outpace their ability to produce it, so feeding foods rich in vitamin C can be beneficial. 

Bell Peppers

Bell Peppers have triple the vitamin C of oranges. They are the most vitamin C-rich commercial fruit with 128mg per serving. 

They are also rich in carotenoids — plant pigments responsible for the bright red, yellow and orange colors in fruits and vegetables. 

Research suggests that a diet high in carotenoids can prevent the development of food allergies

broccoli

Broccoli is also an excellent source of vitamin C (89mg/serving) along with an extensive list of other benefits

Broccoli is a rich source of one particular phytonutrient (a flavonol) called kaempferol. Kaempferol has the ability to lessen the impact of allergy-related substances.

But Broccoli owes its unique benefits to a compound called sulforaphane. 

Sulforaphane is a potent anti-inflammatory antioxidant found in cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, brussels sprouts and kale, but broccoli is the most rich. Raw vegetables have 10 times more sulforaphane. 

Researchers found that Sulforaphane can activate immune cells and attenuate the allergic response

Watch this comprehensive video for more information about this powerful compound. 

Untitled-1

Papaya (61mg) and Pineapple (48mg) are rich in vitamin C, and also contain potent anti-inflammatory enzymes — papain and bromelain, respectively. 

Bromelain and papain play an essential role in inflammation and other functions of the immune system.

Studies show that bromelain can reduce overall allergy sensitivity by stopping the development of inflammatory responses.

These enzymes along with other potent bioflavonoids are most concentrated in the pineapple core and papaya seeds, so use the whole fruit!  

What we recommend

 

Puree any or all of these fruits and veggies and add to food, or follow our supertreats recipe and freeze in ice cube trays for a refreshing treat. Feed 1-2 teaspoons daily for small dogs, 2-3 teaspoons daily for medium dogs, and 1-2 tablespoons daily for large dogs. 

Organic Brown Whole Flaxseed

Omega-3 fatty acids

Flaxseed

Flax seeds are one of the richest dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids and lignans. 

These compounds provide anti-inflammatory benefits that can enhance the immune system response and reduce allergic reactionsbut not to the same extent as fish-derived omega-3s eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). 

Omega-3 fatty acids from plant sources like flaxseeds are in the form of Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA), which needs to be converted to EPA and DHA. 

What we recommend

 

Add 1 teaspoon of organic flaxseed per 20 pounds of body weight to your dog's food. We add it to our supertreats recipe. 

Organic Brown Whole Flaxseed

Fish oil contains the most concentrated source of EPA and DHA omega 3s.  

These omega-3s are responsible for regulating the inflammatory response to infections so that it is not too much and not too little, but just right. The optimal ratio of EPA to DHA for reducing inflammation is 2:1, but both are important.

Besides their role in dampening the initial inflammatory response, they also help heal after the attack is over. For this reason, omega 3s are beneficial for treating autoimmune diseases

 Studies demonstrate that consuming enough omega 3s in early life is associated with a reduced risk of autoimmune diseases, so make sure to incorporate omega-rich foods into your puppy’s diet. 

Omega-3s may moisturize the skin and prevent itchy skin by sealing in moisture and keeping out irritants

Omega-3 fatty acids can substantially reduce or resolve the skin inflammation and itchiness caused by allergies. Omega-3 supplementation can also reduce yeast infections that cause skin and ear problems for dogs and cats. 

What we recommend

 

The suggested dose of combined EPA and DHA supplements range from 20 to 100 mg/lb body weight depending on the severity of the condition. Make sure to look for the amount of EPA and DHA, not the "fish oil," which can be misleading. Dr. Tobias makes a quality product with an ideal ratio of DHA to EPA.

We use both the capsules and the pump bottle below. We add the fish oil from the pump bottle to our supertreats

Dr. Tobias Triple Strength Fish Oil CapsulesFish Oil Pump Bottle

Zinc, Magnesium, Vitamin E

pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are one of the richest sources of zinc and magnesium. 

Zinc and Magnesium are two minerals that work synergistically. Magnesium helps the body regulate Zinc levels, and Zinc allows the body to absorb magnesium more efficiently. 

 

Zinc plays a critical role in the immune system, where it is crucial for the development and function of immune cells. Zinc’s ability to reduce the duration and severity of the common cold has been widely researched and demonstrated. 

Zinc also helps reduce tissue inflammation. A deficiency in either zinc or magnesium is associated with systemic inflammation, a condition that is linked to disease in general. 

Pumpkin seeds are also packed with Vitamin E, a potent antioxidant and one of the most effective nutrients known to modulate immune function. Vitamin E supplementation has been shown to enhance the function of the immune system and reduce the risk of infection and susceptibility to allergic diseases.

What we recommend

 

Feed dogs under 50 pounds 1 teaspoon of pumpkin seeds daily. Dogs over 50 pounds can be given up to 1 tablespoon daily. 

Organic Pumpkin Seeds

Quercetin

Apple skin

Quercetin is comonly known as “nature’s benadryl.” It is an anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic compound that inhibits immune cells from releasing histamines that are responsible for your dog’s itching and inflammation.  

Dogs fed quercetin-rich diets (added via extract) had better metabolism and fewer free radicals.

Dogs absorb the version of quercetin from apples the best.

Apple skins, cilantro, asparagus, kale, cranberries and chia seeds are rich in quercetin, but in order to achieve therapeutic doses, quercetin extracts are also available. It would take at least 3 cups of any of the quercetin-rich foods above to get the 50mg of quercetin that is in an allergy relief chew, but dogs should only be a fed few ounces of fruits and vegetables (10% of their diet). 

Quercetin is more effective with digestive enzymes like bromelain (pineapple) and papain (papaya). 

What we recommend

 

The best way to give your dog a therapeutic dose of quercetin is through a supplement. We like these two supplements because they include a number of synergistic ingredients in addition to quercetin. 

Allergy Immune Supplement BitesExtra Strength Allergy Immune Supplement Bites

Beta-glucans

immunity mushrooms

Mushrooms are packed with healing antioxidants and an immune-modulating fiber called Beta-glucan that reduces inflammation and allergic reactions.

One of the most widely studied benefits of mushrooms is their ability to support an engaged and balanced immune response

In one study allergy sufferers who were given beta-glucan supplementation reported reduced total allergy symptoms and severity along with improved overall health and well-being.

The concentration of beta-glucan is highest in Reishi, Shitake, Cordyceps, Turkey Tail, Maitake, Lions Mane and Chaga mushrooms. 

A high quality mushroom extract is the best way to take advantage of the variety of benefits that these mushrooms provide. You can purchase a specific immunity mushroom extract for dogs as well, but it is more expensive and the ingredients and benefits are basically the same. 

What we recommend

 

Make sure the mushroom blend has a certificate of analysis with beta-glucan content of at least 30%.

Dosage is 1/4 teaspoon of mushroom powder for every 25 pounds -- a 100 pound Dog gets 1 teaspoon daily. We add Sacred 7 mushroom powder to our supertreats

SACRED 7 Mushroom Extract PowderOrganic Mushroom Chewable Treats for Dogs

Gingerol

Ginger

Ginger is packed with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that can enhance the immune system response and suppress allergic reactions. Ginger also has powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties.


What we recommend

 

Using fresh, whole ginger is preferred, but you can also use a dry ginger powder. Cut off the skin and mince the ginger. Add to food daily:

1/4 teaspoon daily for miniature breeds, 1/2 teaspoon for small breeds, 3/4 teaspoon for larger breeds. We include fresh ginger in our supertreats recipe. 

Organic Ginger Root Powder

Curcumin

turmeric

Turmeric has been the subject of more than 6000 studies. The active ingredient, curcumin, has anti-inflammatory, immuno-modulating, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal benefits. 

Research indicates that curcumin can work as well as anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and steroids without the negative side-effects. 

One study found that curcumin may be able to control and reduce the body’s inflammatory response to allergies with an inhibitory effect on histamine release. 

Another study found that it can also be used in conjunction with anti-allergic steroids like predisolone to lower the dosage and reduce the side effects.  

Turmeric also has Prebiotic properties that benefit gut flora. Since about 70% of our body’s immune cells are in the gut, foods that promote healthy gut bacteria may help support the immune system.

What we recommend

 

Even though curcumin is the active ingredient in Turmeric, there are still other beneficial compounds in turmeric. We like the curcumin bites below because they include good doses of both in an easy treat. However, we make our own by adding pure curcumin and turmeric to our supertreats

You can also simply add plain turmeric to your dog's food -- 1/4 teaspoon per 10 pounds

Turmeric Curcumin BitesPure Curcumin Powder

Glycyrrhizin

licorice-2543337_1280

Licorice root has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Glycyrrhizin is one of the active compounds found in licorice along with almost 300 flavonoids. It is similar in structure to naturally occurring corticosteroids that reduce inflammation. 

This makes licorice an excellent anti-inflammatory for joint issues and allergies.

Unlike synthetic corticosteroids that inhibit the immune system, licorice enhances the body’s natural anti-inflammatory processes without compromising immune function. 

The anti-inflammatory activity of licorice works through a variety of mechanisms, particularly the downregulation of inflammatory mediators. It has also been studied as a topical extract to reduce itching and other symptoms of skin disease.

Licorice root also works well in conjunction with prescribed cortisone therapies because it can allow for lower drug dosages. 

What we recommend

 

Licorice is easy to feed because most dogs love the taste. You can add a powder directly to their food. There is no standard dosage recommendation, but allergy relief pet supplements with licorice root include 60-180mg per dose, depending on weight.  

Organic Licorice Root PowderAllergy Immune Supplement Chew

Prebiotics & Probiotics

pumpkin

Pumpkin is a common prebiotic for dogs. It is a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber, which adds bulk to the stools and helps to keep the digestive system regular and healthy. Insoluble fiber reaches the colon mostly undigested, where it feeds beneficial bacteria.

With 70% of the immune system in the gut, maintaining its microbiome is important for all immune responses.

Probiotics are live organisms that help heal, improve and maintain gut health. 

Prebiotics are non-digestible food substances that are consumed by probiotics to:

  • Grow beneficial bacteria that compete with harmful bacteria  

  • Build immune system cells, which reduce inflammation

  • Form a protective barrier against food allergens
ground green tripe
Green Tripe

Dogs have gotten their probiotics and prebiotics for thousands of years by consuming the guts of their prey (green tripe). 

There are many studies investigating the role of probiotics and prebiotics in inducing gut immunity

One study showed that probiotics decrease allergen-specific antibodies in dogs in response to an allergen, and partially prevented further allergic reactions for three years. 

Another study showed that probiotics significantly reduced the severity of skin allergies in dogs.

What we recommend

 

Prebiotic: We puree whole pumpkin (including the seeds) and include it in our supertreats recipe. Feed 1-2 teaspoons daily for small dogs, 2-3 teaspoons daily for medium dogs, and 1-2 tablespoons daily for large dogs. You can also add water to dry pumpkin powder. 

Probiotic: Fresh green tripe is an ideal probiotic for dogs and it is what we use. Yogurt and Kefir are excellent as well, but they should be used in moderation because dairy can cause digestive upset in dogs. 

Prebiotic/Probiotic: You can also give your dog a supplement that includes all of the above in an easy treat.  

Probiotic Chews with PrebioticsDry Pumpkin Powder

Bee Pollen & Honey

bee pollen

Honey has been used as a medicine thousands of years, but it is supported by western research as well.

Bee pollen is considered a “superfood” — nutrient dense and packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein and fats.

In addition to the nectar that bees collect from flowers, they also collect pollen. Raw honey contains a small amount of bee pollen.

Research shows that bee pollen is anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antimicrobial and anti-allergic.

Bee pollen contains Quercetin and Kaempferol, two antioxidants known to reduce allergic reactions

Giving your dog small doses of bee pollen is a natural alternative to allergy shots containing pollen allergens and works similarly.

Ingesting minute amounts of pollen allows a dog to adjust to it so they can be exposed to larger amounts — when plants or trees are in bloom — without being affected. It is possible for a dog to have an allergic reaction to bee pollen, so it is recommended to start with a single grain of bee pollen and monitor your dog. Slowly increase over several weeks until a maintenance dose of 1 teaspoon per 30 pounds of body weight is reached.

What we recommend

 

Local raw honey or bee pollen works best because it contains the local environmental allergens.

Organic Bee PollenRaw, Organic Honey

Colostrum

bovine_600x

Whereas bee pollen may help desensitize your dog to environmental allergies, colostrum can have a broader effect on both food and environmental allergies by controlling the inflammatory response to toxins, bacteria or allergens.

Colostrum is a mother’s “first milk” and contains elements known to stimulate and build the immune system and aid healing. 

Research shows that the anti-inflammatory proline-rich polypeptides (PRPs) in colostrum help eliminate or improve allergy symptoms by inhibiting immune cells that proliferate allergic reactions or creating immune cells that suppress the immune response.

What we recommend

 

Fresh, raw bovine colostrum is hard to find, but can be purchased from RawFeedingMiami. 

You can also give your dog a supplement that includes colostrum with other allergy-relieving ingredients in an easy treat. 

Raw Bovine ColostrumAllergy Relief Immunity Supplement Chew

Questions or Comments?

Do you use something to relieve your dog’s allergies that wasn’t covered? Let us know in the comments below

We participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Read our full disclosure here.

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Sue
Sue
2 months ago

This is a concise and comprehensive article on keeping your pet allergy free with an amazing immune system.